Christiana Care protest 210810

Ralliers against vaccine mandates assemble on both side of Churchmans Road in front of Christiana Hospital in Stanton on August 9, 2021

The honks from an exiting Hockessin Fire Station ambulance and Christiana Care shuttlebus enthused ralliers outside of Christiana Hospital in Stanton protesting ChristianaCare's upcoming vaccine mandate for employees.

ChristianaCare announced last month that its roughly 14,000 employees have until September 21 to receive the first dose of one of the COVID vaccines, except those with specific medical conditions or religious exemptions. 

That policy has now sparked a pair of protests, one on Saturday, and then a follow-up Monday night on both sides of Churchmans Road at the hospital entrance.

Among those in attendance Monday was now-former employee Tori Malin, who offered her two-weeks notice last Thursday at the beginning of her shift, and was let go at around 1 p.m. the next day, ending a 3 1/2 year tenure at the hospital.

"They called and told me I was terminated. I asked if it was because of [Saturday's] rally, they said 'I don't know.' It caught me off guard, because I had been a dedicated employee. I worked through the entire pandemic, I worked through on the COVID unit, came in for overtime, worked extra hours, so it was heartbreaking to be let go in that way."

In a statement released Saturday during that rally, ChristianaCare Chief Physician Executive Dr. Ken Silverstein said while the "majority of feedback we've received has been positive and supportive," he acknowledged concerns continue among many members of the hospital staff.

"We also recognize that a significant number of individuals continue to have concerns about the vaccine and its safety. We are listening actively, as we also work to provide clear, factual information about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines."

ChristianaCare has planned virtual town hall meetings with their staff, but Malin said her former employer should offer more options than just a vaccination mandate.

"There's not as much information. Christiana's not releasing a lot of information. We're not finding much information about adverse reactions, side effects, risks, things like that. We're really hoping if they're going to continue the mask mandate at the hospital, that they do allow employees to choose weekly testing instead of getting the vaccine."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has continuously updated its guidance on COVID-19 as new information has come in during the pandemic.

Malin, who said she's not anti-vaccination having received childhood immunizations. said she's not ready to commit to the COVID-19 vaccines.

"I believe that at this point I'm not for the COVID vaccine. I don't believe there's enough information, and it hasn't been studied enough to know the adverse reactions, risks, side effects, and long-term effects. I'm not in any way, shape, or form anti-vax, I'm pro-education."

Silverstein's statement disagreed.

Our decision-making is based on the science and the facts about the vaccine.

"The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and approved. They are not experimental. Hundreds of millions of doses have been given under the most intense scrutiny in medical history. We know more about the safety of these vaccines than we’ve ever known about a vaccine so soon after it has become available."

Malin was the only person among dozens of protesters Monday night willing to speak on the record, but said that doesn't mean her former colleagues aren't interspersed in the protests.

"Just to know that a lot of people don't think there are employees out here, they are, they just don't want to put their job on the line at this point in time, they want to see how things play out. There are nurses, phlebotomists, health tech, every position possible. We have community support, employee support, people driving by that are employees, patients that agree with us, it's kind of overwhelming."

Malin said she's heard of multiple former colleagues also considering leaving on or before September 21 due to ChristianaCare's policy, and thinks that could be a real problem for them if they go through with the mandate.

"They're looking at approximately 4,000 employees that are currently unvaccinated that might lose their jobs. That's a risk we're willing to take to stand up and say 'this is what we believe in, these are our rights.' I don't think Christiana as a company can really afford to lose that many people. You can replace them with travel nurses, but can you replace environmental, transport, respiratory, phlebotomy, residents, and doctors? Are all of them going to travel in and fill this hospital?"

As of August 9, 101 people are listed as being hospitalized with COVID-19 in Delaware, a number that has jumped from 37 back on July 31. Delaware has reported one COVID-related death this month. Delaware does not break down its information by hospitals.

Malin said she hopes ChristianaCare listens to those protesting against the new policy.

"We want people to have informed consent and be able to make the decision to choose to get the vaccine or decline the vaccine. It's coercion not consent, we're very much against the mandate."

Further protests are being planned for next weekend at ChristianaCare's locations in Stanton, Wilmington, and Elkton, Maryland.